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By Nutrition Team


Thursday, October 16, 2008.


How nutrition savvy are you? You may know the latest football scores or keep up-to-date with the soaps, but do you know your polyunsaturates from your trans saturates? Will eating grapefruit with every meal really burn off extra calories? And is that slice of white bread really the best thing since…sliced bread?


Following a healthy diet doesn’t have to mean lettuce and lentils – it’s all about balance and making healthy choices on a daily basis. Take the quiz and find out how you can make small changes to make your diet healthier every day.


Fact or Fiction?


1. Nuts are a bad food.

Fiction. Nuts are a wonderful source of protein, fibre and different vitamins and minerals; they’re all-important for a healthy heart and strong immunity. Walnuts are a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and almonds are high in vitamin E. However, nuts are high in fat, which makes them high in calories.


All fat, whether good (poly- and monounsaturated) or bad (saturated) contains 9 calories per gram versus 4 calories for protein and carbohydrate. If you’re watching your calories, don’t snack on nuts - they’re too easy to overeat. Instead, add chopped walnuts or flaked almonds to salads and casseroles for flavour, crunch and good nutrition. One ounce (28g) of chopped nuts contains approximately 170 calories.


2. All carbohydrates are equal.

Fiction. Different types of carbohydrates have different effects on the body. Complex carbs like bread, potatoes, rice and pasta, are digested more slowly and release their energy more gradually than simple carbohydrates or sugars. Sugars and sugary foods quickly increase our blood sugar levels, giving us a sugar ‘high’ and causing the release of insulin.


When insulin does its job and the excess sugar is stored away, we feel low again and crave more sugary foods. It’s a vicious circle but one that we can avoid by going for wholegrain complex carbs - they avoid this roller coaster, giving us more energy for longer, filling us up and protecting us against heart disease and some cancers. So put away those Coco Pops and reach for the Shredded Wheat!


3. We eat almost double the amount of protein we need every day.

Fact. Many people eat 1.5 to 2.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight, and only need about 0.8g per kilo. Multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8 to find the approximate amount of protein you need if you’re moderately active. It’s about 1.0 to 1.2g per kilo if you’re active or very active.


Meat is not the only source of protein in your diet. In fact, many plant foods have good amounts of protein, and are healthier because they contain very little saturated fat, and virtually no trans fat. By combining grains and legumes (beans and pulses) with cereals and nuts, you’ll consume the full complement of essential amino acids.


4. It doesn’t matter what time you eat - you can eat before bed and not necessarily gain weight.

Fact. The total amount of calories you eat versus the calories you expend through activity and exercise constructs the balance that shows up on the scale. Depending on how much you ate during the day, you may want to include a snack before bed if you’re hungry. Make your goal to pay attention to your hunger signals. Try a hot cup of low cal hot chocolate or warm skimmed milk as a bedtime snack. It won’t have any more calories in it than if you had it earlier in the day!


5. Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, I should take lots of it every day.

Fiction. The body needs vitamins and minerals to perform daily metabolic function. As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects the body from damage by free radicals, by-products of these metabolic reactions.


However, more is not always better! Too much of any one substance has a corresponding effect on chemical reactions within the body and taking excess vitamin C can lead to the body decreasing its own production of other antioxidants.


The body excretes extra vitamin C, as it is a water-soluble vitamin and too much vitamin C may cause kidney stones. When you eat a balanced and varied diet, full of fruit and vegetables, supplements are generally unnecessary.


Colourful fruit including oranges, grapefruits, mangos and especially kiwis are full of vitamin C; red peppers, broccoli, spinach and sweet potatoes are good sources too. Eat the fruit raw and whole, not juiced, to take advantage of its fibre content. Steam or quickly stir-fry fresh or frozen vegetables for delicious taste and the full complement of vitamins and nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables.


6. The first thing I need to read on the Nutrition Information label is the amount of fat.

Fiction. You must first know what constitutes one serving of the food; only then will the numbers make sense. For example, a tin of soup might contain two servings, with 220 calories per serving. But if you eat the entire can, you’re eating two servings, or 440 calories! Knowing the amount of fat, fibre, salt and the number of calories is important, but only after finding out the number of servings in the container.


7. Low fat biscuits are better than regular biscuits.

Fiction. Some low fat biscuits contain at least as many, if not more, calories than regular full-strength versions. When fat is removed, manufacturers often make up for the change in taste and texture by adding more sugar - taking out a little bit of fat and replacing it with lots of sugar doesn’t make for great savings on the calorie front.


For example, Jaffa Cakes provide 46 calories and 1g of fat each while Go Ahead Chocolinis provide 56 calorie and 1.7g of fat each. Go Ahead Golden Crunch have 38 cals and 0.9g of fat each while full fat Garibaldi have only 40 calories per biscuit (and only 0.1g of fat more)!


And while lower fat biscuits obviously contain less fat, this doesn’t always equate to comforting calorie savings – regular digestive biscuits have 74 calories and 3.3g of fat each while lower fat digestives have a measly calorie saving of 4 calories, while still providing 2.4g of fat each. Lower fat is not a licence to polish off the packet!


8. There are no foods that will make you burn fat more efficiently.

Fact. Food is fuel... it’s not magic! Eating grapefruit after you eat a burger won’t make those calories disappear; a pill or potion won’t make your metabolism burn fat off your thighs any quicker. The money spent on advertising “miracle” products may tempt you to try them. Believe this above all else: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.


9. Eating high-cholesterol foods causes heart disease.

Fiction. Research suggests that diets high in cholesterol are not necessarily unhealthy. Diets high in saturated and trans saturated fat are unhealthy and do promote heart disease. Some foods that contain cholesterol also have high amounts of saturated fat, but some high-cholesterol foods contain little saturated fat, including prawns, lobster and eggs.


10. I’ve succeeded and failed on numerous diets, so I may as well give up!

Fiction. It’s like smoking; the more times you try to quit, the better the odds become that you’ll succeed. This new year, ask yourself: Are you happy with your weight? Are you worried about your health? Do you know that if you’re overweight, every year proves more difficult for you to change your outcome? NOW is the time to make the changes and modifications to your diet that will help you to prevent disease that will shorten your life.


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